DESERT ROSE

Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret An­gel Sara Sampaio tan­ta­lises un­der the Cal­i­for­nian sun

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tographed by Yu Tsai Styled by Deb­o­rah Af­shani

Cut­ting a fig­ure of calm amidst the jagged con­tours of Cal­ifro­nian out­crops, Por­tugese model, sul­try siren and Vic­to­ria's Se­cret An­gel Sara Sampaio re­flects on love and how to make the world a bet­ter place. By Ger­ald Tan.

The Rocky Buttes Movie Ranch is a panoramic desertscape east of Lan­caster, Cal­i­for­nia. Here, the ma­jes­tic arid land stretches as far as the eye can see, dot­ted with Joshua trees that stand re­silient among dusty boul­ders. To­gether with the crush of sand and gravel un­der the feet, the howl of the wind washes over the mind and body like waves from a dis­cor­dant tune.The ef­fect is both in­vig­o­rat­ing and hum­bling all at once. Star­ing pen­sively into the dis­tance, top model Sara Sampaio is soak­ing up the en­ergy of the place. Her head is wrapped in vin­tage, gauzy scarves and she is dressed in threads that re­sem­ble finds from a no­mad’s cher­ished stash. From afar, Sampaio’s regal and proud stature is akin to a desert princess sur­vey­ing the grandeur of her king­dom.

This oth­er­worldly land­scape can­not be fur­ther re­moved from Matosin­hos, a coastal mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Por­tu­gal.This is where the 26-year-old head-turner spent her for­ma­tive years in the warm em­brace of her fam­ily, friends and the salty sea air.“It was such a great place to grow up in.We spent all sum­mer on the beach and surf­ing.Tak­ing walks by the beach is my favourite thing to do. There’s some­thing about the ocean that is so spe­cial and calm­ing,” Sampaio re­calls.“Porto (Matosin­hos’s more fa­mous neigh­bour) has this laid­back feel­ing to it.Their peo­ple are strong-minded, but we’re more go-get­ters.”

That streak is def­i­nitely ev­i­dent in Sampaio, who launched her mod­el­ling ca­reer after win­ning a Pan­tene com­pe­ti­tion at age 16. For clinch­ing top hon­ours, Sampaio ap­peared in a TV com­mer­cial for the brand. De­spite the enor­mity of the ca­reer­mak­ing gig, Sampaio’s par­ents were in­sis­tent their daugh­ter did not ne­glect her stud­ies.“The only thing they ex­pected from me was that I kept my grades up.And that was a fair de­mand,” she re­mem­bers.“They were my big­gest sup­port­ers from the mo­ment I had the chance to go in­ter­na­tional after fin­ish­ing school.They un­der­stood that this was a one-time op­por­tu­nity.They also knew the worse-case sce­nario was me go­ing back to the books.”

There wasn’t any worse-case sce­nario to worry about.Aided by good work ethics (plus a lit­tle sprin­kling of luck), Sampaio’s ca­reer has been on a steady as­cent. In the years since her fresh­faced beauty was broad­casted to mil­lions of house­holds across her home coun­try, the five-time win­ner of “Best Fe­male Model” at the Por­tuguese Golden Globes has mod­elled for the likes of Bal­main, Dolce&Gab­bana, Marc Ja­cobs and Miu Miu. In 2013, the pouty-lipped clotheshorse landed the cov­eted spot on theVic­to­ria’s Se­cret ros­ter. Sampaio knew the sig­nif­i­cance of theVic­to­ria’s Se­cret job—she faced re­jec­tion for two years be­fore hit­ting the glit­ter-cov­ered run­way. Even­tu­ally, her hard work and pres­ence proved for­mi­da­ble, and she earned her An­gel wings in just two sea­sons:“Be­ing put in the same list with An­gels past and present, such as Gisele Bünd­chen and Adri­ana Lima, still feels quite sur­real.”

Sampaio has brought the same de­ter­mi­na­tion into her ro­man­tic life.“When I love, I’m there for the long haul. I don’t fall in love eas­ily, nor have I had many boyfriends. I don’t get into a re­la­tion­ship just for the sake of it,” she ob­serves.“Love makes you a bet­ter ver­sion of your­self.And I’m in it for the long run.”

She is cur­rently dat­ing Bri­tish in­vestor Oliver Ri­p­ley, and the love­birds have been spot­ted hand-in-hand on red carpets in Cannes, frol­ick­ing on board a yacht in Ibiza and most re­cently, ush­er­ing the NewYear in Syd­ney. Pri­vacy is a valu­able com­mod­ity in this so­cial me­dia-driven era, where smart­phones are on-hand to doc­u­ment ev­ery­thing.With more than six mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, Sampaio has man­aged to walk the del­i­cate tightrope of en­gag­ing her fans with snapshots from her jet-set life, while main­tain­ing pri­vacy at the same time.“I share a lot of my life, but I also like to keep cer­tain things to my­self.A re­la­tion­ship is just be­tween two peo­ple any­way. It feels nice to have some­thing that is just yours.That way, it doesn’t give much room for peo­ple to give opin­ions on your re­la­tion­ship.”

More im­por­tantly, Sampaio un­der­stands the in­flu­ence she wields in the on­line sphere. If there’s a sil­ver lin­ing to be found in this dig­i­tal age, it’s how hash­tags have be­come ves­sels for change, with #lovewins, #metoo and #myjob­should­not­in­clude­abuse lead­ing the charge in 2017. Sampaio has spo­ken out against ha­rass­ment and abuse in the mod­el­ling in­dus­try, bravely de­tail­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence with a French men’s mag­a­zine in an In­sta­gram post that has since gar­nered her an over­whelm­ing amount of sup­port.“It has al­ways been im­por­tant to speak out. Now we have a di­rect plat­form to do so.You have a di­rect line to mil­lions of peo­ple who care, sup­port and lis­ten,” she says.“And that’s pow­er­ful.”

On what more can be done, es­pe­cially when it comes to is­sues such as equal­ity and women’s rights, Sampaio of­fers: “Ac­count­abil­ity is the most im­por­tant. See­ing peo­ple be­ing held ac­count­able for their ac­tions has been amaz­ing and it’s go­ing to start the change the in­dus­try re­ally needs. I hope it will come to the fash­ion in­dus­try be­cause we are des­per­ately in need of it.” Love comes in all forms, too, and Sampaio hopes to con­trib­ute to the dis­cus­sion on em­brac­ing diver­sity and cel­e­brat­ing dif­fer­ences by ad­vo­cat­ing kind­ness.“The next time you think about calling some­one fat, skinny or what­ever, just stop. Com­pli­ment them in­stead,” Sampaio says.“No one is per­fect.And that’s what makes us spe­cial and beau­ti­ful.”

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